The Detroit Lions coaching search may start much earlier than expected. In a normal year, the Lions wouldn’t be able to interview any external candidates currently employed by another NFL team until the regular season was over. But according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, those rules are changing this year. It’s not clear if these are permanent changes to the rule or a temporary change in lieu of the pandemic.
Pelissero shared an NFL memo on Tuesday night detailing the new rules. Let’s break it down:
New rules starting Wednesday until the end of the regular season
- Teams may conduct virtual interviews (up to two hours) of any head coach candidate they please starting Wednesday. However, the team that employs them can deny said interview until the regular season is over.
- This rule does not apply higher-level jobs like GMs. Teams still cannot interview GM candidates currently employed by an NFL team until the end of the regular season.
New rules starting the day after the regular season ends (January 4)
- In-person interviews may begin for GM or head coach positions of candidates who are either not employed by an NFL team or are with a team that is not in the postseason.
- Virtual interviews of head coaching candidates can begin of coaches who have a bye in the postseason. These requests cannot be denied.
- Virtual interviews for high-level jobs (like GM) can begin of any candidate. Those requests cannot be denied. If the candidate’s team is eliminated from the playoffs, in-person interviews may begin. Those requests cannot be denied, either.
New rules after Wild Card playoff weekend (January 10-11)
- For a week, virtual interviews of coaching candidates on teams that won their first playoff game may proceed.
New rules after the divisional round of playoffs (January 18-24)
- Interviews with coaches still in the playoffs are prohibited until the next round of the playoffs concludes (January 25).
New rules after the conference championship game (January 25)
- Teams may interview coaches who will participate in the Super Bowl for a week leading up to the Sunday prior to the Super Bowl (January 31).
You can view the entire NFL memo here:
The new rule allowing virtual interviews during the regular season (up to 2 hours long) applies to head coaching vacancies only. Restrictions apply to other positions. No in-person interviews permitted as long as the hiring club or candidate’s club is still playing. A breakdown: pic.twitter.com/3T2MNDJiqI— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 22, 2020
The main difference here is that teams can begin their search right now. For a team like the Lions—who are in the middle of a general manager search—they may not take advantage of it right away. That being said, if the Lions have the resources, it would be wise for them to at least get started by seeing if they can touch base with a guy like Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who they may not be able to get in touch with until after Wild Card weekend.